Miliband warns Burma' risking global isolation'

Burma risks global isolation because its continued oppression of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband warned today.

He slammed the “show trial” which started today and urged the authorities to begin a “constitutional process” to include Ms Suu Kyi’s party and other minority groups.

Only three weeks ago Mr Miliband and his EU counterparts extended two-year-old sanctions against Burma for another year and demanded the opposition leader’s release.

Today the same ministers opted to wait and see the result of her new trial for allegedly breaching the terms of her house arrest.

“We are very concerned by the situation in Burma” said Mr Miliband. “The house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi is bad enough but for her to be put on show trial just adds to the pain.

“Our position is that everything should be done to ensure that the Burmese government understands fully the need to create an inclusive constitutional process rather than a sham process, which needs to includes all of the minorities as well as the opposition.”

He said it was vital that the Burmese regime understood the risks it was taking: “The EU has shown itself ready to help the people of Burma, but certainly the regime should be under no illusion about the isolation it brings upon itself through its actions.”

Mr Miliband also called for “political renewal” with equal rights for all in Sri Lanka at the end of the military conflict.

“People everywhere are concerned about the humanitarian situation for those unknown numbers trapped in the conflict zone and displaced in refugee camps.

“There is a crying need for an inclusive political settlement. Tens of thousands of innocent Tamil citizens want to be citizens of equal rights and values.

Iran was also on today’s agenda in the wake of international warnings about the country’s continuing nuclear programme: “We are now at a phase I would describe as the best opportunity ever for the Iranian government to realise that its demonisation of the outside world is not merited.

“We seek a change of policy in Iran, not change of regime. We seek Iranian compliance with its international obligations, notably on the non-proliferation treaty, and above all we seek common sense because a nuclear arms race is the last thing the Middle East needs at the moment.”

Mr Miliband challenged the president of Sri Lanka to show “magnanimity in victory” when he addresses his country tomorrow at the end of the conflict.

And he called for “serious allegations on both sides” to be investigated as part of an independent inquiry being demanded by EU governments.

The Foreign Secretary also shrugged off demonstrations in Colombo in which he has been burned in effigy.

He said: “This is not about burning effigies of me but about the burning of real bodies of real people in Sri Lanka today, all those who have suffered in the crossfire.”

Before returning to London, Mr Miliband said it was now for the Sri Lankan president to reflect on the impact of 26-27 years of war, and also to “look to the future”.

He added: “We hope that in his extremely important speech tomorrow he will set out a political settlement with clear rights for all of Sri Lanka’s citizens.

“We hold no brief for the Tamil Tigers. Our only concern has been for civilians. The government of Sri Lanka has made serious allegations against the Tamil Tigers, and serious allegations made by both sides should be investigated.”

Meanwhile, Mr Miliband continued, the victor should be magnanimous: “Magnanimity in victory is not just important in sport, but in much more important matters of life and death.”

On Burma, he said everyone was appalled that Ms Suu Kyi was now on trial, and EU governments would be considering whether to step up sanctions against the Burmese regime, which currently include a freezing of Burmese assets in the EU and a European travel ban against senior regime members.


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